Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Time to get back on the horse!

Yes, it is indeed time to get back on the horse…the blogging horse, that is. I took a tiny hiatus that turned into an extended hiatus! There are a few reasons why this occurred. First of all, I was taking a hiatus from my coach, who I hired to help me with get my voice out in the world, primarily through writing. I stopped seeing my writing coach and I took what started as a tiny hiatus from writing. As a professional coach myself, it is comforting to know that I am capable of falling into the abyss just like any other person. Comforting? Yes, it is. It shows the value in the work that I do (job security!) and that even those of us who “know better” can fall prey to this thing called Life, and that our priorities can shift dramatically and unexpectedly, putting previously important items on the shelf, at least temporarily. It certainly gives me more compassion for my clients that struggle with priority management. As a coach, growing my compassion quotient is a never ending goal of mine. The more, the better!

Secondly, I got a little distracted with this thing called Love. Love…you know, that thing I’ve been hoping, dreaming, wanting for 41 years? And it happened to be with someone who I can only see on weekends because he lives over 2 hours away in San Jose, so my weekend writing got put to the side, and most of my weeknight writing turned into long “novels” that he and I write back and forth (about 80 pages worth at this point!). So I was channeling my writing skills in a different way. But I’m back! And I’m here to tell you about another Life is Perfect story…this time as it pertains to L-O-V-E.

I have two friends (permission granted to share their story!), C & A, who have been married now for a little over a year. C & A are one of those couples where it is totally obvious to anyone around them, that they not only love each other, but they really, really like each other. They crack each other up, finish each other’s sentences, and engage with each other in a really appreciative, adoring way. They are also amazing partners to each other and have that “off the hook” type of chemistry that is palpable in their presence. They, in essence, are the couple that single people (and unfortunately, some married, too) look at and say “that’s what I want”. The quintessential fabulous couple…but it didn’t start out that way, and that is why I’m telling you about them. Their love was born out of a very tumultuous and heart wrenching situation.

A few years back, C & A were married, but they weren’t married to each other. A had been married around a decade when her husband and she started to really develop challenges. A admits now that she wasn’t particularly happy in the relationship, but they had two girls to focus on and she hoped it would get better. But then her husband started to act strange. Hushed cell phone conversations and seemingly disconnect from her and the girls. Stuff that made her question whether he was having an affair. She questioned him and he denied it, but in her gut, she knew something was amiss. At this point, she started to get suspicious, checking cell phone bills (that were astronomical and all to the same number) and realizing that in her heart she knew something had dramatically shifted.

She admits that in some ways, when he came clean to have fallen in love with someone else (as he called “an emotional affair”), in some ways she was relieved. They decided to separate, but their lives were still quite entwined . When they were still living together, she did something she was not proud of – she read his journal. There, what she knew in heart to be true, she found verification. Afer her husband had already moved out, A had this gnawing feeling in her gut that told her “I have to meet her husband. I have to talk to someone who understands my experience”. After much reluctance, A’s husband gave A the other woman’s husband’s email address. They set up a time to meet (although A admits that she almost cancelled 3 times and that her therapist thought it was a very bad idea).
They met up down in Sausalito, which was about halfway between Sebastopol and San Jose, where each couple respectively lived. They met for dinner and really connected. They decided to go dancing, but couldn’t find a place to go, so instead sat in a van for hours talking, when finally he leaned over and kissed her. They proceeded to make out for several hours in the van. And, you guessed it, that man was C.

When they first started seeing each other, they decided to do no “futurizing”. C had plans to move to Australia and A really just wanted to be in the moment. They had so much fun together, living in the moment and just enjoying the few months they had together before C was heading overseas. But as the months rolled by, C realized, despite his lifelong dream of moving to Australia, that A was more important. Yes, truly sometimes the things that are most important, shift as our lives unfold. And sometimes what we discover is that there are things more important that take a priority. Love of this magnitude is indeed one of those things. C decided not to go to Australia. As happy as A was about this, she protested at first, not wanting to be the reason he gave up on his dream. When she realized he was dead-set on loving her as a priority, she gladly acquiesced.
C moved to Sebastopol, but to his own apartment, not wanting to make any rash decisions, especially because of A’s girls. C, who had no children of his own, stepped into a loving role with the girls and things continued to thrive. That’s when I met them, and they told me their story and I was captivated by their tale of sadness and betrayal that converted into a love that is admired by all. That was two years ago. A year later, they married in a small civil ceremony and moved in together and they became a family. When people ask them “soooo…how did you meet?”, they gladly tell the story with glowing looks upon their faces, enjoying the look of shock and awe on the people’s faces when they hear the story unfold.

If you had asked them 3 years ago “if your spouse (of over 10 years) cheated on you, how do you think that would affect your life?”, I’m sure that both of them would say that such a betrayal would be devastating and would be one of those things that would be hard, if not impossible, to overcome. Temporarily, I believe that was the case. Both of them were hurting and mourning over what had happened. If you had told them that it would be the best thing that ever happened to them, I’m sure they would have looked at you like you had two heads. But if you ask them now, they will tell you that it was the best thing that ever happened to them. That it was this love that they had hoped for their entire lives; that the girls love and embrace C in a way that is enriching their lives tremendously, as well. All in all, it was imperfectly perfect.

Sometimes there are things that our souls want that we don’t even have awareness about, until they come into our lives. Sometimes, that makes our priorities shift – priorities we thought would not or could not shift. Life has its way of surprising us and keeping us on our toes. It is a lesson for me in attachment. Sometimes if we get attached to outcomes, we miss opportunities that will bring us even more joy than we know possible. It has me reflect on the importance of knowing our values and to focus on having those be met, because sometimes our values will be more fully manifested by changing our priorities and focus. Suddenly, Australia pales in comparison to a rich life in Sebastopol. Suddenly, my need to express myself, is channeled to my beloved, rather than my blog audience (at least for a few months!).
It also reminds me of the power of presence. I believe part of the magic of C & A was their ability to be completely present and authentic with each other, without an agenda. How often do we have romantic relationships that have agendas (marriage, 2.5 kids, white picket fence) that get in our way from seeing who the other person truly is? It’s been a lesson for me, for certain, on the importance of staying present to what is and not to get caught up in the “idea” of the future.

So there is a more personal reason why this story is indeed perfect. When I bought my house in Sebastopol 3 years ago, this lovely woman, Molly, moved into my rental cottage. We became fast friends. I then met her partner, Annie, and became fast friends with her, as well. Annie did a Vision Quest years ago and met A during that experience and became friends with her. Annie then introduced A to Molly and Molly, in turn, introduced her & C to me and we became fast friends. A is one of my closest friends.

At C’s birthday party in January, A approached me as I entered and said “there is a guy here that C & I want you to meet. He’s one of C’s best friends from San Jose and we think he’d be perfect for you!” Fast forward to present time and Eric and I are one happy couple. Are you following? So, if A’s husband hadn’t cheated on her, I would not have met Eric, who is undoubtedly the best thing that has ever happened to me. Who knew that such joy could arise from such a horrible, initial situation? Well, I did, I just didn’t know how much joy I would personally benefit from in this particular instance! That is why I have this blog! Because I truly believe that Life is Perfect…you just don’t always know it at the time.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

When life gives you lemons...

You may be wondering why it's been so long since I've posted a blog post. Funny thing is, I wrote a fabulous blog post about life being perfect that involved a story about Laura Dern about a month ago. It was about her meeting Ben Harper (and marrying him) a year after her live in boyfriend for 7 years, Billy Bob Thorton, married Angelina Jolie while Laura was on a movie shoot. Since Ben Harper is what I call "my music boyfriend", I have often told this story through the lens of life being perfect but not always knowing it at the time and about how Laura Dern REALLY traded up in the world. (I mean, really, Billy Bob or Ben Harper - is there anyone out there that would question that one?) But that at the time Billy Bob betrayed her, she described what happened as a "sudden death". I can guarantee you that she wasn't thinking about how life was perfect but then, a year later, she meets my music boyfriend (clearly, she didn't get the memo). So I wrote this fabulous story about it and saved it (rather than posting it right away) and the next day it was announced that Ben Harper had filed for divorce from Laura Dern. So much for my amazing Life is Perfect story! (although I do think it's perfect that I didn't post it!) Furthermore, it looks like this one blindsided her, too. But, rest assured, I still believe that life is perfect. And I believe we will keep getting the same lesson until we really learn what it is that we need to learn. Someday, I hope Laura can look back on this experience and see the perfection in it. I'm sure in this moment, it is less than perfect in her mind, but I believe the universe is generous and kind. I believe we get taps on the shoulder to pay attention to things, and if we don't, we end up getting the whack on the back of the head. What's generous about that, you ask? The universe really wants us to get "it". It wants us to learn, grow, expand, see where we've steered wrong, and give us an opportunity to get back on course. The universe wants us to step into our highest possible self, and return to it when we've lost our way. And maybe, just maybe, the universe wants Ben Harper to marry ME. I'll keep you posted on that one!

Aside from writing a pretty good blog post that will never see the light of day, I've had a series of events happen to me that have made me question "what am I supposed to be learning?!?" in the last 6 weeks. It actually makes me realize that the universe is not only generous, but it is HILARIOUS, which makes me think of a Regina Spektor song that says "God can be so hilarious. HA HA" I have often played her song "Laughing With" over the last 6 weeks. It's a great song that always makes me cry. As you can see from the following exerpt, God isn't always hilarious:

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

The song goes on to talk about how God can be funny and hilarious - it's not all so grim. And so over the past 6 weeks, I have tried to see the events in my life as a comedy of errors and to see the humor in all that has gone down. Here's a re-cap of the last 6 weeks (well, only the stuff that fall into my comedy of errors category)

1) Whole water system fails at my 3 house property. Have to deal with the German born water guy who obviously has never been trained in how to keep your clients from freaking OUT...or perhaps was a language issue. After looking at the system, he busted into my house while I was on a business call to announce that "this is a DISASTER", waving his hands all about. I told my client I had to call them back. Without water for a day.

2) Major gas leak that, had I been home, and turned on the hot water, the pilot lighting on my tankless hot water heater would have blown my house to bits. Thankfully, I was in Seattle and my tenant and my handyman could smell that there was a leak, even from outside the house. Luckily the pets were unharmed. Gas main was shut off until the gas company could investigate.

3) Major gas leak reveals that the entire gas piping needs to be replaced and explains the $300 a month gas bills. Hmmmm...hadn't I asked them to come out in February to do a pressure test and they told me that everything was fine? Gas company takes no responsibility and says that I must use a lot of hot water or cook a lot (the hot water heater and the stove are the only appliances on the line). Without gas for a week. Shower at the gym and eat a lot of cereal.

4) When digging trenches for the gas leak, they hit a water main and left several severed pipes in my irrigation system that they simply reburied before fixing (lovely). My tenant was without water for 2 days.

5) Water guy falls through the top of my huge water tank, leaving a huge hole in the top of my very expensive tank. Luckily he is ok, but the tank was not. He insisted that this has never happened before and at first, failed to take responsibility for fixing the tank. He quickly changed his tune after telling him I called several of his competitors who verified it was his responsibility and that they would gladly become my new water guy.

6) Needing a much needed "day in the dirt" (aka gardening), to get re-grounded and not obsess about the 5 figure unanticipated outpour from my bank account, I went to the hardware store to purchase new gloves since I had blown out the index fingers on my current pair and I hate dirty nails! While in the check out line, a man collapses on top of me, pinning me to the counter, while having a heart attack. He falls to the floor and after about 4 minutes dies before my eyes. I have never seen someone look so frightened in my life and I will never forget the sheer terror in his eyes. When his soul left his body, it went right through me and out the door. I exclaimed "he just died. Does anyone know CPR?" Thankfully someone did, but 15 minutes of CPR failed to revive him. The paramedics took over, but also failed to revive him. I return to my broken down house and plant 200 bulbs in his honor. A friend at church the next day, exclaims with a smile of what an honor it was that he chose to die with me. Sorry, but as cool as a person as I think I am, I don't think that really figured into his death plan.

7) 6 days later, I get on a plane to S Korea to visit an old friend. 2 days into my trip, N Korea decides to attack S Korea. Although I never felt in danger, it did a good job of freaking out everybody else in my life, and, admittedly, I let out a big sigh of relief when my plane took off 4 days later.

The good news of all this, is it makes a helluva good story. You got to admit, it's a pretty long list of crappy things to happen in 6 weeks (and I didn't bother to tell you about the health scare or having to break off a budding relationship because he lied to me one too many times, but neither one of those were all that funny, even in hindsight). At the time, none of these seemed funny at all. In retrospect, I have re-told the story with tears coming down my cheeks, and they were tears of laughter, and only mixed with tears of sorrow when I talked about the poor man who died. My theory is, when life gives you lemons, make some limoncello, have a party, and tell some good stories.

Don't worry, though, I'm not making light of the whacks that the universe has given me. I spent a good 12 hours of flight time in the last few weeks thinking about all of this, and countless hours before and hence. Mourning for the poor man who died in a hardware store surrounded by strangers. Praying for the people of Korea and that they may have the peace and safety they deserve. Wondering if the mantra I had with my house of "it's always something" was the reason why so many things have gone wrong over the past 2 years and if I changed my mantra, that maybe, just maybe, nothing else would go wrong. And, most importantly, thinking about "what does the universe want me to be learning right now?" because when all else fails, I just have to remember my faith in that life is perfect, I just might not know why it is in this very moment. So I persevere, trust that the universe is kind, generous AND hilarious, and learn a little bit more every time I sit down to write. So when life gives you lemons, remember that they are the essential ingredient in a myriad of fabulous, yummy recipes in life, and you are the master chef.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Is failure really failure?

I have always had an interesting relationship with failure. When my definition of failure equaled the Webster Dictionary definition (an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success; nonperformance of something due, required, or expected), it was pretty black and white in my book - failure was a bad thing and was to be avoided at all cost! Well, as one can imagine, if failure is seen as "unsuccessful" or "nonperformance",it certainly was not something I aspired to. In fact, I avoided things or quit activities I wasn't naturally good at because I didn't want to fail. If I wasn't good at something, like sports, as an example, I couldn't get past my lack of performance to enjoy the physical joy of moving my body and the fun of trying (unsuccessfully) to block my friend from passing the ball. As a result, I stopped playing sports when I was 11 even though I am always happiest when I am physically in my body. At the time, though, I saw it as self preservation, as I would berate myself when I'd mess up a play, and was truly a lousy sport. That is because I saw it as black and white - you are either successful or a failure. You either win or you lose.

I also didn't take a whole lot of risks in my life when that was my definition of failure, because risks could most certainly lead to failure. This also means that I didn't do a lot of things I secretly wanted to but publicly denounced, out of the fear that I would fail. As an example, when I was a 15, I had this huge crush on this boy, Chris. Whenever he was around me, I got these butterflies in my stomach. I would sit around and wonder what it would be like to hold his hand and to be his girlfriend. I even made this collage from cut outs from magazines that was my "shrine to Chris". So, naturally, you would think I would be thrilled when he asked me to "go steady" with him. But, actually I was really petrified. What if he didn't like me when he got to know me better? What if he wanted to kiss me and I did it "wrong"? So instead of gleefully saying yes to this boy I had a huge crush on, I said "no" because I was scared...scared of messing up and failing. Recently, Chris asked to be my friend on Facebook. He's married and has several kids and obviously he didn't hold it against me after all these years, but I'll tell you, I spent a long time that night thinking about how my life might be different if I had said "yes" to him. Not to say my life would be better or worse, whose really to know, but certainly different. And I'm sure I would have learned a good lesson a little earlier about what it was like to be in relationship with a boy. That, I'm sure, would have been useful for my growth, even if our relationship ultimately "failed". And, yes, I wish I had taken the chance to know one way or the other. Interestingly, as I look back on my life, it is the things I didn't do that I regret most, not the things I did.

This morning I read an excerpt from J.K. Rowling's commencement speech at Harvard in 2008 called "The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination". One of the things she said was “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” So many of us were to taught to draw inside the lines, follow the rules, get good grades, "be careful", go to a good school, work for a good company. I don't know that much about J.K. Rowling, but what I do know is that she went to Exeter and was working at Amnesty International when she started to write the Harry Potter Series. She got married, had a family, and continued to work on the books in her spare time for about ten years before she got a publishing deal. So even though she "followed the rules" she didn't give up on her passion until it came to fruition and she learned from her own experience that living cautiously held back her own success. But, alas, Life Is Perfect...if she had gotten it published early, whose to say it would have had the impact it ultimately did? But she was wise enough to learn from that experience and pass it on to the Harvard grads in the hopes that they could learn from her own experience and not live so cautiously.

These days, I live a lot more boldly, and frankly, my life is a whole lot more interesting. One of the things that I do in my Leadership courses is that I point out to people when I've failed. I do this for a variety of reasons: 1) They probably noticed so my acknowledging it builds my credibility with them 2) So that they know that great leaders often fail and 2) that great leaders aren't afraid to share their failure because 3) great leaders use every failure as a learning opportunity and 4) every failure is a teaching opportunity and 5) it gives their teams permission to fail, which is really the most important piece of all. No great innovation or world change has ever occurred without leaders who not only risked failure, but failed in some way along the way to that great innovation or change. As an example, Thomas Edison was working long and hard for years at developing what is now known as the telephone, but was beat out by Alexander Graham Bell who ultimately got credit for the invention, so he diverted his energy to inventing the incandescent light bulb. Even the light bulb took hundreds of prototypes before he got one to work successfully. I'm grateful that Edison didn't subscribe to Webster's definition of failure and used each of his failed attempts as a learning platform for the next prototype...and has transformed the lives of billions of people as a result of his work.

Since many of us will never be the inventor of some major, world changing invention, here's a story about the impact of my willingness to fail that anyone can relate to. Recently, some friends of mine had this lovely party at the beach near their house in Bodega Bay. All of us gathered on the beach to watch the sun make its slow descent downward at the end of this beautiful day. One of the 10 year olds decided to do a cartwheel for the "audience", to which we gave her a huge round of applause. Then the 6 year old got up and did a round off for us, and got a huge round of applause. Then one of my 40-something friends got up and did a perfect cartwheel, Nadia Komenich style. We all applauded wildly again, but then no one else got up, even though everyone was saying "who's next?". People were whispering "I'm not following that!" or "Oh, I was never good at gymnastics". So, in a leader moment, I got up in front of the crowd and did one of the clumsiest, imperfect cartwheels ever, and I was greeted with hoots and hollers and cheers. And you know what? Every single person at the party (oh, about 25 of us in total) got up and did a cartwheel one by one after that. By failing (but not miserably, but with a huge belly laugh that had tears rolling down my face), I gave others permission to fail, too, and to fail ecstatically! It was definitely a peak experience that will forever be a fond memory.

What I have learned is that my relationship to failure is parallel to my relationship to a joyful, full life. The more I embrace, welcome, and open myself up to the risk of failure, the more I embrace a full, exciting, joyful imperfectly perfect life. I know I'll have some good stories to tell the little ones gathered around my rocking chair when I'm old & gray (& hopefully wise). And I'm sure I'll have lots and lots of learning ahead as a result of it. Failure is only a failure if we don't learn and grow from it. And if you hold it in that framing, then life is perfect, you just don't always know it at the time!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Mantra

Those who know me will tell you that if I had a mantra in life, it is that Life is Perfect. The first time I tell a new client or acquaintance this mantra, I am always amused at the look of bewilderment in their eyes when I tell them “I believe that life is perfect”. I see the furrow appear on their brow, a slight smirk on their lips, and in their eyes, the questions that percolate inside of them. And the waiting…the waiting for the punch line. After a beat, perhaps a beat too long, I continue by saying “you just don’t always know it at the time”.

I believe this to be true from the evidence I’ve collected over 4 decades. The heartaches, the joys, the frustrations, the disappointments, the boredom, the despair, the yearning, the trials and tribulations that led me to be the woman that stands before you. Without all of them, I would not be the woman I am today. And since I love who I’ve become, I cannot believe anything other than Life is Perfect. Imperfectly perfect, mind you, yet perfect nonetheless.

If you had asked me 20 years ago if Life was Perfect, I certainly would have a slew of evidence to the contrary. 20 years ago, I believed that life was unfair. I believed, despite my many, many blessings (mind you, ones I couldn’t see at the time), that I was dealt a hand of cards that made winning an impossible feat. I surrounded myself with many people that believed that mantra, too. Those around me who shared a different mantra, who wanted more for me, were simply Polyannas in my view. It was easier for them, I thought, because they were dealt a far more desirable deck of cards. My comparison gremlin believed that I simply pulled the short stick when it came to life.

There were several poignant moments in my life that slowly started to shift my perspective. I continue to shift every day, because frankly, there are days that I definitely don’t think that life is perfect. However, I have gathered enough evidence to the contrary that my moments of “life pretty much sucks” come fewer and farther between, and certainly only for a few hours or a day, before I can return to the mantra that has served me so well over the last 20 years.

The first time I realized this was about a year after my best friend, Leslie, killed herself when she was 19 and I was 20. The year before her death, I had spent a glorious year studying abroad in Italy. I discovered who I was that year, without the constraints of who I’d always been up to that point. A new country, a new language, differentiated from my family and the friends that so defined me up to that point. I started to discover who I really was, when everything I always knew lay 8,000 miles away. 20 years ago, there was no internet, no email, no Skype, and limited phone accessibility unless you were willing to pay $3 a minute to call home. Leslie called me several times that year, leaving messages I couldn’t afford to return. Snail mail was the only way we connected for the 10 months I lived so far away. Upon returning to the States, I was only home for 10 days before I was scheduled to work at the Summer Camp I had attended as a child. Leslie and I spent almost every day and night together when I was home, feverishly catching up on all that we had missed in each other’s lives. Yet it was clear the dynamic had shifted. I could tell that she felt small in comparison to all the things I had learned, experienced and discovered that year. I had found unbridled joy in the year that I lived abroad, for the first time since I was a little girl. On my last night in Connecticut. before heading north to the Adirondacks, I spent the day and evening with my other closest friend who I hadn’t seen all week. In Leslie’s eyes, since I was spending my last night with my other friend, this meant I valued her more than I valued Leslie and Leslie was furious with me. Before heading off in the morning, I went by the YMCA, where she worked as a lifeguard, to try to talk with her but she wouldn’t speak to me. She wouldn’t even look at me. I left for the Summer with my best friend not speaking to me and feeling both unappreciated and unloved by me. Sixteen days later, I received the call that she was dead. Having got up for work that morning, she went into the garage with her bathing suit and sunblock already applied, started her jeep and decided to leave the door closed. She left no note, as if she just looked at her life before her and said “I just can’t do it anymore”.

For a good 6 months, I wallowed in my sorrow and guilt. I felt somehow responsible for what had happened. I felt I could have prevented it. This was, by far, the lowest I have ever felt in my life. I thought many, many times in that 6 months that it should have been me that died. I wanted to die and escape this enormous pain that haunted me. Thankfully, I had good friends who, out of their concern, had an intervention with me. As a result, I saw a therapist for the first time, and in addition to beginning to heal the wounds of Leslie’s death, I began to heal other wounds that had been affecting me for a long, long time. It is when I first began to realize that there is a gift in everything. Leslie’s death forced me to go to therapy and gave me the chance to live a different life than I had up until that point. I realized through my therapy that Leslie and I bonded over our misery and that it could have easily been me that had chosen her path. It was a huge wake up call and I realized that Leslie had given me an immeasurable gift – the gift of life. I swore from that day forward, that I would squeeze every drop out of life and to look for the gift in everything, knowing that there always, always has been a gift for me in every hard and even tragic thing that has happened in my life.
Mind you, finding the gift in everything is often a journey. Sometimes it has been a long one for me, and other times, a shorter one. I find, thankfully, that the more I have been open to seeing the gift in things, the easier it is to see them. One of my favorite stories I tell my clients is what I call “The Pony in The Poop” story. Two brothers go to spend their summer on their Uncle’s farm. The Uncle quickly puts them to work , shucking out the stalls that have accumulated all winter. They were literally in 3 feet of sawdust thick with urine and manure. One brother took one sniff and one look at the situation and thought to himself “this is going to be the worst Summer EVER”. He starts shucking out the stalls, swearing under his breath, complaining about the rotten lot in life that he has been dealt. Then he looks over at his brother who is working swiftly, whistling a tune as he worked. The first brother says “what are YOU so happy about?” to which his brother replies “With all this poop, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!”. And so you have it, my friends. It is all the way you look at things.

There is no doubt that Leslie’s death left an indelible mark on my life. I easily could have let that mark be the story that evoked violins playing in the background and pity from the people that heard the story, or worse, been justification for ending my own life (as several other people we went to High School with did in the months to follow). I am so grateful that I made a different choice. It took a tremendous amount of support and love to change that story and one thing I realized through that experience is that I could not have made a different choice without the support, love and encouragement from others in my life. Do I wish more than anything that I could go back and change what happened? Absolutely. And I’ve also learned so poignantly that regret is always about things we think we have no power to change. I cannot undo Leslie’s death. And I have also learned that the highest and best way to honor her life, is by learning from her and be a better person for the sacrifice she made. I am eternally grateful to her, as I believe that her death saved my life and has inspired me to help others create a life they love. And so Life is Perfect…you just don’t always know it at the time.